The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

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By Betty Williamson
Local columnist 

Good luck being your charming self


Last updated 8/16/2022 at 4:13pm

Editor’s note: Betty Williamson is taking a few days off. This column was published in 2019.

For a mere 50 cents, I picked up a gem at a recent used book sale — “The Woman You Want to Be: Margery Wilson’s Complete Book of Charm.”

First published in 1928, mine is from the 18th printing, released in 1942.

It’s filled with timeless tips — timeless, I tell you — on how to be a better person … OK, a better woman … but you men should listen up, too.

If you’re hosting the meal at your house anytime soon, take this to heart: “A woman who runs her own house should arrange the ‘easiest’ possible dinner that will spare her for her friends. The can-opener should do full duty.”

Wilson says that “even if you have a number of servants” (um, what?) “your mind and spirit will be free to give unreservedly to your guests, if you know your dinner is simple, ‘fool-proof’ and has no difficulties or ‘snags’ in it.”

She recommends keeping harmony in gatherings by stifling those pesky personal opinions.

“Speaking of opinions,” Wilson says, “the charming woman does not air hers very freely.”

A woman’s opinions should be “as private as her toothbrush — unless there is a very good reason to state them,” Wilson writes.

She recommends taking even more of the fun out of family gatherings (my opinion, not hers) by following a number of maxims including, “1. Keep your voice soft, lilting and uncomplaining. 2. Neither think nor speak one single criticism.”

What a joy to see an entire paragraph on avoiding “the dreadful clasped hand habit,” since we women (I can especially relate to this) are so prone to sitting “hour after hour and day after day” with our hands “clasped meekly” in our laps.

Wilson suggests time spent in front of a full-length mirror learning at least five different positions in which to place our hands, including, “Left hand in center of lap, palm down — right hand on seat of chair, half-way between knee and thigh or more toward knee (lean slightly forward).”


We are encouraged to “show receptiveness” while the men are talking by interjecting the “occasional short remark” such as, “That’s true!,” “How sensible!,” “Indeed it is!,” “I hadn’t thought of that!,” and “How clever!”

Here’s an idea I plan to start incorporating. As you arrive at an event (or apparently even if you’re simply returning from a quick visit to the powder room), pause in a doorway “for an instant on entering a room anywhere, any time. It gives you an opportunity to show yourself as a framed picture if you have dressed for the occasion.”

I can barely wait.

Once the party is over, Wilson proposes a “graceful goodbye,” with a smile on your face, for as long as you can stand it anyway.

“Do not ‘cling’ at the last moment,” she writes. “Keep your happy expression on your face until well out of sight, unless it is so natural for you that you wear it all the time.”

A final tidbit from Wilson’s book: “Set a fire under your kettle of hospitality and soon good talk will come steaming out the spout!”

(Unless it’s an opinion. Keep that with your toothbrush in the bathroom. I think. I’m so confused.)

Good luck with that meal. You’re on your own.

Betty Williamson can be reached at:

[email protected]


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